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Thu Dec 6, 2018, 02:11 PM

Power Grab-There is More vile--Aims To Allow Wisconsin DOT To Avoid Federal Wage Requirements

Changes To State Highway Funding Rules Passed During Lame-Duck Session


Transportation Experts Say Measure Aims To Allow DOT To Avoid Federal Wage Requirements On Some Highway Projects

Thursday, December 6, 2018, 5:25am
By Rich Kremer

Legislation passed during the Legislature's lame-duck session could change how Wisconsin pays for major highway projects. Transportation insiders say the tweaks are meant, by lawmakers, to be a way for the state to avoid federal wage requirements.

The first bill approved by lawmakers during this week’s extraordinary session makes changes to how the Wisconsin Department of Transportation funds highway megaprojects, like those in southeastern Wisconsin and other major state highway projects throughout the state, by requiring at least 70 percent of the project be funded with federal dollars.

Under current law, the DOT uses a combination of federal and state dollars, but for megaprojects and other major highway improvements there isn't a set minimum for federal funds.

Former DOT Secretary Mark Gottlieb said that change is significant because federal funds carry with them federal requirements that contractors be paid wages set by the U.S. Department of Labor.

Wisconsin had similar requirements under what were known as the prevailing wage laws, but those were repealed as part of the 2015-2017 state budget. At the time, some Republican Lawmakers argued the prevailing wage rules made road projects more expensive by forcing the DOT to pay wages that were higher than necessary.

Gottlieb, an appointee of Gov. Scott Walker who criticized his policies during the 2018 campaign, said it appears the latest changes are meant to concentrate federal funds into fewer highway projects, meaning the contractors working on other projects will not have to be paid the higher federal rates.

"That’s a policy decision that the Legislature is free to make," said Gottlieb. "The caution that I would have is that the people who are advocating for that are saying that it will save enormous amounts of money and that by in fact by getting rid of prevailing wage that could, in effect, solve the state’s transportation funding problem and that is not true.".........................................

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